tv Meet the Press NBC May 8, 2011 10:00am-11:00am EDT
this sunday, a special edition of "meet the press." the u.s. and the world after osama bin laden. >> our strategy is working and there is no greater evidence of that than justice finally being delivered to osama bin laden. >> the big questions now -- a we safer? is al qaeda a diminished foe? should the u.s. accelerate its withdrawal from afghanistan? and did pakistan knowingly shelter the most wanted man in the world? >> how could bin laden have gone undetected living next door to
pakistan's equivalent of west point? >> joining us for his first appearance on "meet the press," the president's national security adviser, tom donilon. then, the ongoing debate. does bin laden's death and the intelligence gathered to find him vindicate the bush administration's aggressive counterterror policies? with us, former director of the cia during the bush administration, michael hayden, former secretary of homeland security, michael chertoff, and the mayor of new york city during the 9/11 attacks, rudy giuliani. finally, the political impact. the ultimate commander in chief moment for obama. is it a game-changer for 2012 as a still unsettled republican field holds its first debate? our roundtable weighs in. associate editor of "the washington post" and author of "obama's wars," bob woodward, presidential historian doris kearns goodwin, the bbc's katty kay, and columnist for "time"
magazine, republican strategist mike murphy. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good morning. the raid on the compound in abbottabad, pakistan, last sunday not only resulted in the killing of the world's most wanted man, it provided u.s. intelligence officials a treasure trove of data showing, they say, that bin laden had remained highly active in directing al qaeda in the decade since 9/11. among some of the items released by the u.s. government yesterday afternoon, five videotapes showing never seen before videotapes of bin laden, several including actual or practice messages to the american people, and one shows a gray-bearded bin laden huddled under a blanket flipping through what appears to be news footage of himself on television. the audio from the seized tapes was not released by the government, officials saying it's an effort not to further spread bin laden's anti-american propaganda. shortly after the tapes were distributed to the press, i sat
down with the president's national security adviser, tom donilon. mr. donilon, welcome to "meet the press." >> thank you, david. glad to be here. >> bottom line, what are you learning based on new intelligence from this raid? we referenced the videos just a moment ago. >> well, a couple points on that. first of all, as you know, the forces when they went in sunday night obviously took out osama bin laden, but also gathered up all the material that they could for exploitation by intelligence services, first point. second is the scale of what we've got here. this is the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist. it's about the size of a small college library. >> what's that actually tell us? we looked at the video we showed before. you see osama bin laden looking at images of himself on a screen. >> yes. >> where is that actually happening and when? do you have an idea? >> i don't have an idea with respect to the timing that i can share with you at this point, but let me tell you three or four things about it, all right?
point one is it indicates to us that in addition to being the symbolic leader of al qaeda, that osama bin laden was involved operationally and strategic direction, directional operations, including propaganda efforts, obviously. >> one thing, though, what leads you to believe he's operationally in control? because that would be different than what intelligence officials believed over the past several years. >> i can tell you, and again, we're just at the front end of this, david, and you know me well enough to know i'm not going to say anything i haven't had a chance to study at this point, right? we're just starting to go through this large cache of information and we'll learn as we go along. we'll have, hopefully, information about our ability to additionally attack and strategically defeat al qaeda, but if we develop any information about planning or imminent threats, obviously, we will act on this. but it is important, it is important that osama bin laden -- i can tell you this based on the initial look at this material -- had an operational and strategical directional role, which makes the raid last sunday night and the event last sunday night all
the more important in terms of our ultimate strategic goal, which is the strategic defeat of this organization. >> again, you talk about the propaganda value. there were additional tapes the government released as well of bin laden making addresses, one purportedly to the united states. >> yes. >> these are that he had prepared. but based on what, do you say, that he was effectively still calling the shots for al qaeda? >> based on the information that we've seen in the initial pass-through information. >> specific plots? >> i don't want to get into details. >> okay. but we know there was some discussion, at least aspirationally, about an attack on the rail system in the united states on the anniversary of 9/11. >> in the attempt we hear information like that, we make notices and take appropriate actions. >> were there references to specific plots? >> i don't want to get into the details. >> okay. how worried were you about retaliati retaliation by bin laden? >> the president announced to the nation last sunday night -- and this is a significant achievement in terms of our ability to defeat the al qaeda organization, which is a principal counterterrorism goal of the united states.
but as the president said the other night, this is not the end of the effort against al qaeda, and we fully expect the threat to continue and we'll continue to press our efforts, indeed, after the raid and the killing of osama bin laden sunday night. we'll continue to press very hard, take every opportunity we have as this organization tries to survive. >> do you specifically fear retaliation? >> well, at this point, i don't have a specific thing to talk to you about at this point. but obviously, in our planning before we undertook the raid, we thought hard about specific kinds of actions that could be taken, and you saw the rhetoric at the end of last week, which is to be expected. and as the president said sunday night, it's absolutely critical for us to remain vigilant as we continue to press this organization. >> the larger question, mr. donilon, was captured i think by the "newsweek" cover this weekend in a special edition, "mission accomplished," but are we any safer? was this a death blow to al qaeda? >> i think at this point, we can't declare al qaeda strategically defeated. they continue to be a threat to the united states, but we have taken a really important
milestone in terms of taking down this organization. now -- >> are they a leader of this operation at this point? >> at this point, as an organization, they'll have to work through some sort of succession and ayman al zawahiri -- >> al zawahiri, who it's coming out according to intelligence officials, may not be a popular figure within al qaeda. >> our assessment is he is not anywhere near the leader osama bin laden was. >> and therefore, can al qaeda still be as potent without a strong leader like bin laden was? >> i think it's a real blow. let me say two things about that. number one, we assessed at the end of last year, given the efforts we undertook at beginning of the administration, following on the efforts of the prior administration, that al qaeda was in the weakest shape it had been in since 2001 but still a dangerous organization. and with the steps that we took, with the assault on the compound in pakistan and the killing of osama bin laden, they are even weaker still, and we will continue to press this as we push towards, as i phrased, a
strategic defeat of this organization, which is our national goal. >> let me talk about pakistan. >> yes. >> back in november of 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, president bush went to ft. campbell, where president obama just spoke on friday, and he had a clear message about what was then labeled the bush doctrine. this is what he said. >> america has a message for the nations of the world -- if you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist. if you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. if you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist and you will be held accountable by the united states and our friends. >> is pakistan guilty of harboring osama bin laden? >> well, at this point, i can tell you directly that i have not seen evidence that would tell us that the political, the military or the intelligence leadership had knowledge of bin
laden. >> but how could they not know is what members of congress from both parties are saying. >> i understand that, right? but at this point, i have not seen evidence that would indicate they had foreign knowledge of this, first point. second point is the fact you're alluding to, was that osama bin laden was in this town for six years, 35 miles away from the capital of pakistan, islamabad, in a town that was known as a military town, where they had an important military academy. this needs to be investigated. the pakistanis have said they're going to investigate this. this is a very big issue in pakistan right now. how could think happened in pakistan? we need to investigate it. we need to work with the pakistanis, and we're pressing them on this, and the intelligence, by the way -- >> if we find out that pakistan harbored osama bin laden, what are the consequences? >> well, i don't want to speculate with respect to a hypothetical at this point. i do want to say something else, though -- >> hold on a second. that is not a hypothetical. that is the object, the subject into your investigation into pakistan right now. >> but i think we should find the facts first. >> the president had a visit plan.
he's holding off on that until you know more? >> there wasn't a trip on the schedule, but there was before these events -- >> but should pakistan be held accountable, should, as president bush alluded to, if that's the case, will they be held accountable? >> i think we have indicated that we will act to protect our interests. all right with respect to pakistan, i want to put into perspective -- it's important to do this. we've had differences with pakistan. the harboring -- there was some support network in abbottabad, pakistan, that supported bin laden. we haven't seen evidence that the government knew about that, but they need to investigate that and they need to provide us with intelligence, by the way, from the compound that they've gathered, including access to osama bin laden's three wives, whom they have in custody. but it is important to underscore here that we need to act in our national interests. we have had difficulty with pakistan, as i've said, but we've also had to work closely with pakistan in our counterterror efforts. more terrorists and extremists
have been captured and killed in pakistan than anywhere in the world. >> but you didn't trust him to share information about the raid beforehand. >> that's not a matter of trust, it's operational security. when the president was briefed about this operation and the suspicion that we had that the compound in abbottabad was probably housing a high-value target, and it developed to be, our assessment was osama bin laden, he said from the beginning, we have to have the absolute tightest operational security on this. why? let's take a look at the answer, why? because one, if it leaked at all, he would have been out of there. and two, obviously, we have an obligation to protect the safety and security of our operators. so we only shared this operation with a very small circle within our own government. and to share it with any government outside the united states would have been to lose control of dissemination, which would have not been in the national interests and the extraordinary aspect of this operation, as you know, that we were able to maintain the security as long as we did. >> let me ask you about the ongoing debate, how we got to this moment, the debate about
how the intelligence was gathered originally, that ultimately led the government to find bin laden to carry out this raid and whether there was a level of vindication for the aggressive counterterror policies of the bush administrati administration. charles crout hammer wrote this in friday's "washington post" -- "whence came the intelligence led to abbottabad? many places, including from secret prisons in romania and poland, from terrorists seized and kidnapped, then subjected to interrogations, sometimes enhanced from gitmo detainees, from a bureaucratic apparatus of surveillance and eavesdropping, in other words, from a global war on terror infrastructure that critics including barack obama himself deplored as a tragic detour from american represent attitude." don rumsfeld from the bush administration said this on fox this week. >> i think that anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques -- let's be blunt -- water boarding, did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn't facing the truth.
>> how do you respond? >> yeah. let me say a couple of things. first of all, i'm not going to comment on specific pieces of intelligence and the source, point one. point two, i can tell you this, that the intelligence achievement here, the intelligence assessment that was brought to president obama beginning in the summer of last year was the result of hundreds of pieces of intelligence over many years by the cia and other institutions in the government. no single piece of intelligence led to this. david, that's not the way this works. over time, you have professionals combing through this, and the case goes cold and it heats up again, right, you know -- >> but the specific point, did harsh interrogation help in the effort to ultimately identify where he was? >> no single piece of intelligence led to this. now, we had intelligence -- >> but both things could be true. >> yes, but -- >> answer my question. did harsh interrogations help in the hunt -- >> i'm not going to comment on specific intelligence except to say that intelligence was gathered from detainees it was gathered through interrogation, it was gathered from other liaison services it was gathered technically, through unit
sources over time. and it was gathered, by the way -- this is a very important point for you and your viewers particularly to understand. this was an effort across two administrations. indeed, many of the same professionals who worked for president bush on this project work with us today, right? so, it is not a matter of a partisanship. and indeed, one of the messages, i think that goes out from this is this, that the united states, about its goals, has persistence and determination, that the united states does what it says it's going to do, and very importantly, last sunday night the world saw it has the capabilities to do so. >> couple final points about the operation. the now-famous photograph of the situation room. you're standing in the back with your arms crossed as you're watching this incredibly risky and dramatic scene play out, the raid on the compound. and the details that emerged proved to be incorrect in part. they had to be corrected. how did that confusion come about? >> yeah. let me address that. it is not surprising that in the wake of a military operation that some of the initial reports
will be confused and not precisely accurate. we tried to put out information as responsibly and as timely as we could to you and others in the press and to the public. when we got corrections, as we continued to work through this, we put out refinements and corrections to try to get the story as accurate as possible. but that doesn't detract from the overall arc of the story, which has been clear since sunday night, that we had an intelligence achievement here, we had an amazing military operation, and osama bin laden was killed sunday night. that all was absolutely true, and the arc of that story, despite the fact that there had to be some refinements, which is not unusual, as you know, david in covering these things, after an action like this, don't detract from that. >> final point. you were with the president in ft. campbell when he met privately with the heroes who pulled off this operation. >> yes. >> i'm curious, did he want to know who pulled the trigger? >> i don't want to get into the specifics of the briefing. this is what i can tell you, though -- >> it's my understanding that nobody would admit to actually pulling the trigger because part of the culture of the navy
s.e.a.l.s is, look, we're all a team here, there's no single person. >> right, and it was very much a team presentation, and he was briefed. it's very interesting. not by the brass, but by the operators. he was briefed on every moment of the operation from the moment they took off from afghanistan to the moment they returned. and every action that they took, everything they saw was fully briefed to the president yesterday, and it was a very moving moment. you know, he said yesterday to them, he said this is the finest small fighting force that the world has ever seen. and it was. it was a circumstantial case on the intelligence. it was 50/50 on the intelligence. and i observed this and the president said this to these folks yesterday. i think what tilted the decision was 100% confidence in their capability. >> we'll leave it there. mr. donilon, thank you very much. >> thank you, david. we turn live now to three men who have worked on the front lines in the war on terror, former secretary of homeland security, michael chertoff, former director of the cia, michael hayden, who now both
work as principals of the chertoff group, a strategic advisory risk management security firm. and from new york, the mayor of new york city, of course, during the 9/11 attacks, rudy giuliani, now head of giuliani partners. welcome to all of you. general hayden, i want to start with you. the news that mr. donilon talked about -- this is the largest trove of data from any single terrorist that the government has found. what are you learning now that we didn't know before? >> well, i think they're going after -- several things, david. the first thing you want to find out is imminent threat information. the second layer of detail you want to find out is locational information and al qaeda leadership. and then the third, and this is the long-term effort, you're essentially creating an encyclopedia of how al qaeda operates, what their system is, their tactics, their techniques, their procedures. this is wonderful not just in its size, but we have not gotten what we call sse, sensitive site exploitation, going in and getting materials on al qaeda leadership for several years.
so, it's big and it's new. >> it was the understanding of the intelligence community, secretary chertoff, that after 9/11, he no longer became operationally involved. now, we're seeing these videos -- difficult to know, bit you heard donilon say, no, we think he was more directly in control. what do you think that means? >> well, i think it's going to cause us to evaluate a little bit more about what the leadership structure is and what his role was, and particularly, look at the material that's being exploiting to see whether there are, in fact, leads that can take us to protect against future attacks. that being said, we always knew, and i think it's still clear that there was a cadre of very experienced leaders below bin laden, people like al libi or al lackey in yem, and those are still in place. so, part of what we need to do is understand where their tactics and strategy are based upon the material that we find in this treasure trove. >> mayor giuliani, the question of what this represents against
al qaeda, a death blow or something else. this is certainly a significant development. >> very significant development. removing a leader of the significance of this man is extraordinary. i mean, this is like removing a hitler or a stalin in the middle of those conflicts. he's going to be very hard to replace. and it's a symbolic blow for an organization that feeds a lot on emotion. this is a decentralized organization that's tied together by their feelings and emotions. so, removing this man will help a lot, but it's not a death blow by any means. i mean, this is a pretty decentralized organization. over the last couple of years they've been operating in yemen, other places, so they're not operating in just one place. and i think they're particularly angry at us right now. so, long term, this is a fabulous, terrific development, making us safer. short term, it presents some very substantial risks which i think the administration is aware of. >> secretary chertoff, i want to play a piece of an interview i
did this week as part of our "press pass" conversation, something we do weekly on our website, with steve cole, author of "ghost wars," who knows al qaeda so well. asked about what al qaeda's still capable of, and this is what he said about it. >> al qaeda is a resilient organization, but it is not spreading or growing. so, it has the capability to carry out attacks such as the one we saw christmas before last, where an al qaeda affiliate tried to blow up and almost did blow up an american airliner with several hundred people aboard. now, that is, i think, a fair approximation of its capacity. once in a while, it could kill hundreds of people. that ought to get our attention, but it need not be the basis for organizing every aspect of our national life or our national defense. >> do you agree with that or no? >> i don't know if i would agree that it's not spreading. i think if you look over the last few years, you've seen a greater presence of al qaeda or an affiliation with al qaeda in north africa, obviously in yemen and somalia, and even in parts of central africa. i think what's interesting is this, we don't know to what
extent the strategy of going for the big attack, which we've always presumed was a core element of the strategy, was driven by bin laden personally. now that he's gone, there may be an opportunity for some others who have different views about his style of tacks to begin to shape the strategy. for example, does that mean more mumbai attacks, where instead of blowing up an airliner, you're bringing simultaneous armed attacks on a number of different facilities? so, while this is on one hand a great advantage of eliminating bin laden, on the other hand, we have to be more careful than ever to look at what may be tactical changes in how they move forward. >> general hayden, are you concerned that they didn't capture him alive? >> no. i mean, it might have provided some intelligence advantages, but i doubt very much more than we're going to get from the documents and the hard drives and the discs and so on. no, i understand quite well. and then you would have had somebody in our custody, and that would have been in the news every day and motivating people.
perhaps people now will be less interested in coming to kill us because of some of the videos that we've been able to show. >> let me follow up with all of you on this other ongoing debate i asked mr. donilon about, interrogations, the counterterror policies after 9/11, specifically waterboarding. general hayden, isn't it something of an open question as to whether you can tie that moment to this moment? in other words, harsh interrogation, waterboarding of suspected terrorists ultimately led us to bin laden? can we make that declaring statement? >> i wouldn't describe it that way. i describe it the way director panetta has done in some public commentaries, that one of the key threads we began this from about four years ago came from information from cia detainees. and all of those particular detainees did indeed have enhanced interrogation techniques used against them. so you can't deny that we got valuable information from these folks. now, director panetta went on to say it's just an open question whether we may have gotn them from other means, but the fact of the matter is, we did it this way and this way worked.
>> mayor giuliani, but you heard a declaretive statement from secretary rumsfeld who said that anybody who questions whether waterboarding worked is simply denying facts. how can you make that assertion with such certainty? >> obviously, you can't make it with certainty unless the administration reveals all the data, which they're not. but i thought mr. donilon's failure to answer your question spoke very loudly about the fact that waterboarding, enhanced interrogation techniques, played a significant role in this. maybe not a critical role, but certainly a significant role. and it just makes sense. these kinds of materials are not obtained easily, and many of the material -- [ everyone talking at once ] >> isn't the point, secretary chertoff, that look, khalid shaikh mohammed was water-boarded 183 times, and according to news this week on nbc news, he never gave up the truth about the courier that led to bin laden. so, there is still this debate
that doesn't get settled through killing bin laden, would you agree with that? >> for people who will never be persuaded one way or the other about this, and i don't think i can add anything to it -- >> but is it objectively knowable? >> i'll tell you what's knowable. go back ten years. i was head of the commission on 9/11, and at that point in time, we had a national security apparatus that was stove-piped, that didn't have the ability to integrate information and to act on it in a timely way. both presidents deserve a lot of credit for maturing the apparatus over ten years to the point that, as tom donilon said, the president could have confidence that this apparatus would work, taking the intelligence, operationalizing it, moving it in realtime. all the pieces of that are part of the puzzle. some of them some people will like, some of them people won't like, but it's the totality that gave this president the tools that he was able to use to kill bin laden. >> general, let me ask you about pakistan. >> sure. >> was pakistan specifically helpful to the united states with information that ultimately
i.d.'d the couriers that led to bin laden? >> there is nothing in my personal experience that would prompt me to say yes. pakistan has helped in some other areas. we've captured terrorists in sedentary areas of pakistan, by and large years ago, not more recently by and large, but i'm not aware of any pakistani help that led to the events of last weekend. >> did pakistan harbor a terrorist? >> well there was a terrorist in pakistan that seemed to feel that he was very safe. and as mr. donilon said, they've got a lot of questions to answer and the burden of proof is on them. >> mayor giuliani, you heard donilon say that it's pakistan that's going to investigate this and this is a big deal in pakistan. what are the ramifications for this as more becomes clear about what they knew and when? >> ramifications are huge because pakistan is a critical country, it's a country with nuclear weapons. if bin laden could have this kind of access to the government and get this kind of protection -- if that's the case -- we don't know that it is -- what does that say about the security of nuclear weapons and what's it say about the military force there and how
secure it really is? so, this has huge implications. and before we all comment on it, we'd better be right about it. >> i want to ask quickly about afghanistan as well, general hayden. there are going to be people who say, hey, wait a minute, let's focus narrowly on counterterror, as this president did, let's accelerate that withdrawal from afghanistan. >> i think we need to see how this plays out, david. this is not a singular event that then has us making a sharp break left or right. we'll see what the impact of this is. there are lots of reasons for what it is we're doing in pakistan, going after bin laden -- >> in afghanistan. >> i'm sorry in afghanistan. going after bin laden is but one of them. let's see what happens to this network now. let's see what they do. as secretary chertoff said, we could get a lot more biodiversity, so to speak, in the kinds of threats coming after us, if bin laden did have such a controlling hand. now you'll have more independent actor and perhaps more agile actors. >> what happens now? are these guys on the run?
from an operational point of view, does our tempo increase as these guys are on the move? >> it should increase. this could be the pursuit phase and we should press the fight. >> mayor giuliani, i want to take you back to the end of this week. this president, nearly a decade after president bush visited ground zero after 9/11, returns. and of course, you were there with him as he met with firefighters and family members of the victims. and there was another image that was so poignant this week from sunday night of firefighters looking at the ticker tape in -- i don't know if that was lower manhattan or times square -- "osama bin laden is dead." describe what that's like and is there an emotional symmetry ten years later to have him visit? >> there sure was. i had lunch with the president and the firefighters who we met with, and it was a very emotional and a very satisfying experience. i think they felt a burden lifted from them. hard for them to describe. i mean, it doesn't bring back our loved ones.
it doesn't bring back those tremendous heroes that saved this country on september 11th. but there is no mistaking the fact that there's a burden that's been lifted from them. they can look at this somewhat differently now. and i think all of them, whatever their political persuasions, had great admirations for the president's courage to make this decision. this was a risky decision to make. the president made it, he made it correctly, including the decision, i think, to dispose of bin laden's body so that wouldn't become a cause celeb. i think these men, these firefighters and police officers he met with who exercise bravery every day in their lives, i think they admire that in the president. >> does it impact at all, mayor giuliani, your thinking about running for president next year? >> not in the slightest. i separate the two things. this was an american achievement. two presidents get great credit for it. i also thank president bush this week because no matter what about the debate, no matter what you come out on the debate about waterboarding, no doubt, all of the work he did and the changes
he made in intelligence brought this about. and president obama's improving that and his decision-making brought it about. it's a great achievement for both presidents, both political parties, all americans. >> and you're still considering a run for the presidency? >> not right this minute, but yes, i am. >> all right. we'll leave it there. thanks to all of you very much. and coming up, what will the president's bold decision to go after bin laden mean for his political capital on the hill and his political future in his re-election bid? could this be a game-changer for the race for the white house next year? our roundtable weighs in. "the washington post's" bob woodward, presidential historian doris kearns goodwin, the bbc's katty kay and republican strategist mike murphy. we know why we're here.
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know that we didn't know report? you reported exclusive details over the weekend in "the washington post"? >> well, we know that this was a ten-year hunt that was very frustrating for everyone, at the highest level and at the operational level. but what i think in a way, in the intelligence world that's a triumph of middle management in the culture of persistence of for years taking this raw intercepts, you know, translating, listening, going back, connecting the dots, and then finally discovering and finding someone calling the chief courier for bin laden, who literally had to leave that compound and drive 90 minutes before he could put the battery in his cell phone -- operational security -- and then they found out about that and they said, ah hah, this is the guy we've been chasing for years. >> this guy was not hiding in a cave, and now intelligence officials are telling us, no, he was still operationally in control. what does that mean? >> well, we're going to find out
more about that. i'm a little skeptical. i don't think he was giving rudder orders. i think he was involved in looking at it. but what happened, what's so significant is the frustration. people said, look, bin laden and al qaeda is winning the war psychologically, and we're going to keep trying to get him. and they realize that bin laden would make a mistake, they would get complacent, and that's exactly what they did. in taking -- i mean, in a way, being hold up in that compound was smug, it was raising a middle finger to the united states and saying, hey, look, we're hiding right under your nose. >> doris kearns goodwin, "time" magazine had the latest cover of a threat eliminated, going back over the years all the way to adolf hitler. and when we talk about the leadership moment for obama, i
thought the brookings institute, a conservative voice said something interesting about what this means to president obama. watch this. >> the american people have an interesting quality in their character, which you can trace all through their history. they want their presidents to be men of peace, but they also want to know that, if necessary, the american president can kill. >> i think that's right. think of two of our most loveable presidents. theodore roosevelt. what was his slogan? speak softly and carry a big stick. this was a big stick. eisenhower, having won world war ii, could then take enormous pride that not a single soldier died in combat during his time. so, i think what happened in this thing is it's not just the public perception of obama that's strengthened now because he acted as commander in chief, but you never know what happens internally to a president when they take a risky thing and it works. jfk took control of his presidency after the cuban missile crisis. this guy will now take control of his presidency. i think he's now going to be able to trust his own judgment even more than the military, and
that's huge psychologically. and america feels better again. that's the huge thing that we don't know about, how long that will last, but our prestige and sense of our self is now heightened for a while, and everybody wants that. >> no, i believe you have to give him credit. he took the harder choice. it's easier to push the predator button, a lot less risk, and he took the risky choice, but he got the jackpot, and you have to give him credit for that. you know, now we have osama bin laden's diary and we know most of what he knew, which means we know a lot, and al qaeda finds itself in a horrible two-way squeeze, in the death of their figurehead, and we now know more operational leader, their intelligence in our hands and the arab spring on the other side making their ideology less popular. so, it's not over. it's a huge victory, and it proves that since 9/11 going forward under two presidents, the machine worked it made mistakes. it self-corrected. and those middle management people are dogged and deserve our respect, public service both in the military and cia, and we got him. >> one of the debates this week, katty kay, came over whether or
not to release a photo of bin laden. we have the results of a poll we conducted. look at this, backup for the president's decision, 64% saying the photo should not have been released. and indeed, the tapes that came out are proof that we were there and we got him. and to say nothing of the fact that al qaeda confirmed it. >> which is certainly why the white house released the tapes, to confirm to those who might be around the world doubting this -- and there certainly are doubters. i've spoken to moderate muslims this week that told me that i'm not sure osama bin laden was really killed there. maybe he died a long time ago. how do we know the americans were there? and when i say, if we release photographs, would that change their mind? and no, no, they could have photo-shop. this is a world of conspiracy theorists and i don't think that those who doubted the americans killed osama bin laden would have changed their minds. and i think the president was right in saying those graphic photographs could have enflamed muslim sentiment. one of the extraordinary things we've seen this week, david, is that there haven't been retaliatory attacks so far.
we have not seen huge demonstrations in afghanistan, huge, violent demonstrations in pakistan against the united states for taking this action, and the release of those photographs could have sparked something in an area of the world that is already on a tin box. >> bob woodward, you have to look back at obama the campaigner, who said if i had actionable intelligence, i would move in to pakistan, whether they wanted me to or not. he was heavily criticized for that. and here he is in october of 2008, again, with that singular focus on what would guide his foreign policy. this is what he said. >> we will kill bin laden, we will crush al qaeda. that has to be our biggest national security priority. >> he resets the hunt for bin laden. he increases forces in afghanistan. that was a campaign promise kept. >> it was. and back 18 months ago, when he was making his afghanistan decisions to add 30,000 troops, he was saying in these top-secret meetings in the white house, the poison is in
pakistan. he authorized top-secret, lethal, covert action in pakistan and around the world, and he has really ramped up the effort to be tough because he thinks that's going to end all these wars faster and send a message to al qaeda and their sympathizers, extremists that, you know, as he has said, we're coming after you. we don't forget. >> let me get a break in here. i want to come back and talk about some of the follow-up questions, afghanistan, what it means specifically for the 2012 race. does the euphoria pass? back with our panel right after this. [ man ] i've seen beautiful things. ♪ i've seen the sunrise paint the desert. witnessed snowfall on the first day of spring. ♪ but the most beautiful thing i've ever seen was the image on a screen that helped our doctor
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we're back with our roundtable. doris kearns goodwin, the question of afghanistan, why are we still there? i think a lot of americans wondering whether the mission has been accomplished now with bin laden dead. here's a cartoon from the press of atlantic city, rob turno. it says do you think we'll pull out of afghanistan now that we've killed osama bin laden? and the other one says, sure, like we pulled out of iraq after we killed saddam? >> well, president bush was burdened by the campaign promises that this has to be fought. now that osama bin laden has been killed, which is the reason we were in afghanistan, it gives us more leeway. it's not like the second soldier
said, we can come right out, but i think he can trust his own judgment now and he doesn't have to be burdened by the past. he can look at it much more rationally and make the decision about what's best for us. >> he'd like to come out. >> i think the politics of afghanistan are going to collapse on both sides. they're already soft on the democratic side. i think the pull publ has had enough of the war. you can argue the policy one way or the other. i think you'll see it in the republican primaries. military victory has hangovers, but ultimately, the election is about jobs and that's the war he's not winning. >> you brought that up. let me show you the employment numbers that came out on friday. this is something different. we'll get to the unemployment in a second. approval numbers show an increase for the president, up 11 points, up 9 points in "the washington post." this was from the ft that showed some of the headlines about obama and his political standing. one shows obama gains bullet-proof credentials, raid boosts president's reputation on security, as you see it there,
but this can be a fleeting moment. >> it reminds me of after the first iraq war, when the president's favorable was really high and the economic unhappiness, the wrong track was almost equally as high. there is a maris poll number out two weeks ago, disapproval on handling the economy, also 57%, highest of his administration. if a year from now that perception of the country hasn't changed, he's incredibly vulnerable at re-election. >> i think democrats should put a poster up, like remember pearl harbor, remember george bush under one, don't let hubris get in the way. >> i think foreign policy is going to be a defining issue in the 2012 campaign, it will probably be because there is bad foreign policy news rather than good. these are halos that can dim very fast. but if the white house can transition from this being a policy victory and operational victory to this being a character victory, then i think you do have a substantial shift in the president's fortune. if he can be seen as somebody who does not lead from behind, as we've heard recently, who is decisive, who is somehow more in
tune with the security of america and defending the americans, then i think that will be an important issue during the campaign and will make it harder for a republican going up against him to say we have a weak president who is not acting in our interests. >> bob woodward, the "economist" covered this, too, which was very forward-looking, because it has, of course, osama bin laden there, but it says "now, kill his dream." the proving ground for that is this arab spring, and what can this president now do to have a positive influence on that? >> well, that's the crapshoot. you just don't know. and as we're all hinting that, of course, this is very good news, but very good news is rarely followed by better news. it's followed by bad news. and things can happen in the arabs spring, in the white house. is it yemen, is it libya, is it egypt, is it saudi arabia? all of these places are explosive. pakistan is still the powder keg
of the region, but i think katty's right, it's not the foreign policy issues necessarily, though something might explode. presidential elections are run on character. and the character trait that has emerged here, it sure is a positive at the moment, is nerve. there is a nerve matters in the presidency. people want to have a sense the president is out there looking for me. if he can take that nerve and translate it to the economic decisions, it will be good for him. >> when you make a presidential choice, it's a mosaic. it's not as much as the midterm is, which are judging the message and you're mad at people and you're mad at the economy. and this has put one part of his presidential leadership into great focus. and i think you're right, if it translates into other decisions that he makes. the problem is that the media saturates so much. and look, trump is gone now. trump was our big talk. birthers was our big talk.
who knows what will be saturating us between now and then. but still, character lasts. >> yeah, there's a lot of history yet to be made. on the foreign policy front, he's had a huge victory, but the stakes are now high, pakistan is a mess, and he's got to navigate the politics of that, where we've got to keep a relationship there because of the fragile regime of nuclear weapons, and no leash at all is worse than what we have now. >> i do want to put up the unemployment numbers, the news from this week, the end of a busy week, but it does show that the unemployment rate is 9%. there were the creation of almost 250,000 jobs, a lot of them in the private sector, which is the story that the administration wants to keep telling, but again, 9% unemployment. >> economists look at the number of jobs created. they say that's actually the positive trend and the 9% figure is less important, although of course, as you say, that's the public figure. we know that the administration would like to have unemployment rate down at something like 8% or below when it gets to the 2012 election, and i think mike, you're absolutely right, when it comes to people voting in 2012, it's going to be about jobs, it's going to be about gas prices. and the president is vulnerable
there. and the surprise is that the republicans have not come up yet with a clear figure to run against him. >> the key is, it's always a referendum against the president, and there's one rule of american politics. if the voters perceive you can't run the economy, they fire you. he's got time to make a case, but he's vulnerable. i think we'll look at this in the rearview mirror as an accomplishment. >> is it a referendum or a choice? >> happily, we don't know the future, and even those wise souls at the table here don't come close to knowing the future. >> it's going to be between two guys. >> and i thought something panetta said to the people going in to the compound in pakistan was pretty good -- go find bin laden and get the hell out. and some of these things, like the afghan war, the iraq war, some of the domestic issues, i think sometimes presidents need to make decisions and then get the hell out.
and we need to limit what's on the agenda. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. we will take a break but come back in just a moment with our trends and takeaways segment, a look at what made news over the course of this program this morning and what's ahead this week, right after this. coach. but when i was diagnosed with prostate cancer... i needed a coach. our doctor was great, but with so many tough decisions i felt lost. unitedhealthcare offered us a specially trained rn who helped us weigh and understand all our options. for me cancer was as scary as a fastball is to some of these kids. but my coach had hit that pitch before. turning data into useful answers. we're 78,000 people looking out for 70 million americans. that's health in numbers. unitedhealthcare. and all we need to do is change the way we're thinking about them. a couple decades ago, we didn't even realize just how much natural gas was trapped in rocks thousands of feet below us. technology has made it possible to safely unlock this cleanly burning natural gas. this deposits can provide us with fuel for a hundred years,
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osama bin laden compound in pakistan. this was a key takeaway. >> it indicates to us that in addition to being the symbolic leader of al qaeda, that osama bin laden was involved operationally in the strategic direction, direction of operations, including propaganda efforts, obviously. i think at this point, we can't declare al qaeda strategically defeated. they continue to be a threat to the united states. but we have taken a really important milestone in terms of taking down this organization. >> throughout the week, of course, and during the program this morning, there is a conversation going on online that is throughout the world. we've been monitoring tweet deck this morning. big topics, as you can imagine, that we'll show you on the big screen. osama bin laden, president obama, and bob woodward, the role of pakistan -- tom donilon told me this morning, i can tell you directly, he has not seen evidence that would lead him to believe that the military
leadership had any idea that bin laden was there. that's the key question, isn't it? >> yes, and i think the information they have is stronger. they have really good, solid intelligence that the president of pakistan, rdari, the head of the intelligence service, general pasha, did not know in advance, and they are the key elements here, but donilon also said something very important. there was a support structure there in pakistan -- >> for him, yeah. >> and the expectation is let's find that. >> mike murphy, some political notes as well. rudy giuliani on the program saying, no, he still is considering a run for 2012. at some point, he still will. is there room for him this time? >> there's room. there's always room. he's famous, he has a certain face. i don't think he could get nominated. he ran last time, campaign didn't work out. he could get in, he could be a factor. i don't think he's one of the main three or four. >> what about jon huntsman? he spoke over the weekend.
his initial foray as a candid e candidate. what do you think of him? >> i think he'll almost certainly catch on in the media. there's always room for someone to be new and interesting. i think he has a chance to catch on in new hampshire. whether or not he can roll that into nominations, we'll see how he performs, but i put him to the top of the second tier of candidates along with pawlenty and romney and maybe daniels. isn't too strong. >> i'll leave it there. before we go, happy mother's day to mine, to yours, and of course, to my beth. there are two other mothers that we're think being this morning as well, jane gillis and diane foley, who are spending this mother's day, unfortunately, worrying about their children. american journalists clair gillis and james foley, who have been detained by government forces in libya for more than a month now, and we're thinking about them as well. that is all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." few years,